A popular Minneapolis police inspector at the helm of the city’s North Side has been suspended while the department investigates allegations surrounding an unspecified “personnel matter.”
Inspector Michael Friestleben, 53, who was hand-picked last year by Chief Janeé Harteau and has drawn praise for his efforts to build community trust in the city’s Fourth Precinct, was placed on paid leave pending the outcome of an internal investigation.
In an e-mail to City Council members, Harteau provided no reason for the suspension.
“Effective immediately, Inspector Mike Friestleben has been placed on paid leave as we look into an internal personnel matter,” Harteau wrote Monday morning. “ … The changes will be in effect until further notice and as soon as I have additional information to share I will.”
Harteau added that “in order to maintain stability,” Friestleben’s predecessor, Mike Kjos, who had been running the First Precinct, would again take over day-to-day operations on the North Side. Kjos, in turn, will be replaced by Lt. Erick Fors, who has previously worked downtown.
Harteau didn’t respond a request to clarify the nature of the allegations against Friestleben, and department spokesman Scott Seroka declined to comment on the move, citing “state statutes relating to personnel matters.”
Friestleben didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday.
Police sources with familiarity of the matter said the internal probe was prompted by questions about Friestleben’s handling of a case involving one of his officers who reported being stalked by a former high school classmate.
Friestleben joined the department in 1988 and worked through the ranks with stints in the Fourth and Fifth precincts, before being named a replacement for Kjos, under whom he served for several years. Friestleben, who is white and a lifelong North Sider, was at the helm of the 123-officer precinct in the months of unrest following the November shooting death of Jamar Clark during a scuffle with two Minneapolis police officers.
Since taking over as inspector, Friestleben’s commitment to community policing, along with a relentless work ethic, has won him praise from a wide array of police colleagues, community activists and City Hall. But there has also been tension with police brass. As recently as March, Friestleben made repeated pleas to headquarters for more officers, citing a 6 percent jump last year in violent crime — defined as homicides, rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults. At the same time, response times to calls are slowing by nearly a third. As as result, Harteau deployed about 20 more officers to the streets.